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Netanyahu: We Will Reconsider Nuclear Power Plant

In an interview with CNN on Israel's plan to build a nuclear power plant, Netanyahu says: "I think we’ll go for the gas and skip the nuclear."
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/18/2011, 1:28 AM / Last Update: 3/18/2011, 1:13 AM

Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said during an interview on CNN to air Thursday night (U.S. time) that in light of the nuclear crisis in Japan, Israel would reconsider its plan to build a nuclear power plant in the southern part of the country.

“[The situation in Japan] is a confluence of a natural disaster and man-made disaster,” Netanyahu said in the interview which will air on Thursday’s edition of Piers Morgan Tonight. “The cloud of radioactivity, the uncertainty of what will happen with it, is the cloud that hangs over the people of Japan and I think right now hangs over the world.”

Netanyahu admitted that the Japan situation “certainly caused me to reconsider the projects of building civil nuclear power plants. I have to tell you, I was a lot more enthusiastic about it than I am now. In fact, you’d have to give me a very good argument to do it, and fortunately we found natural gas so we could make up the difference.”

When asked by Morgan if he would stop any nuclear energy program in Israel, Netanyahu responded: “We didn’t have any civilian nuclear energy. We had some research plans but not anything on a significant scale, and I don’t think we’re going to pursue civil nuclear energy in the coming years.”

He added that since Israel found a significant amount of natural gas offshore, “I think we’ll go for the gas and skip the nuclear.”

The plan to build a nuclear power plant in southern Israel was proposed several years ago but has not yet reached the actual planning stages. A spot for the power station has been assigned in the Shivta site in the Negev and other sites were considered in the past including Nitzanim, Halutza and Palmahim.

Israel has two nuclear reactors, in Soreq and in Dimona, and both operate at a much lower power than nuclear stations used to generate electricity. Despite this fact, however, calls have been heard in the wake of the Japan disaster for Israel to examine the reactor in Dimona and maybe replace.

One of those who have made the call is Military Affairs commentator Yossi Melman, who on Wednesday said in an interview on Arutz Sheva that irrespective of the events in Japan, Israel should have decommissioned the reactor in Dimona long ago.

“Our reactor is old, from the fifties,” Melman said. “Germany closed reactors it built in the eighties. And here we have an older reactor. Our experts say the reactor was retrofitted, but some things are very difficult to improve in a reactor sixty years old. The core area is sealed with concrete and steel is very difficult to replace, unless you disable the reactor and remove the fuel rods.”

For a long time, Israel had a strategic policy of ambiguity in regards to its possession of nuclear weapons, until former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert broke the taboo in 2006. “We never threatened any nation with annihilation,” he said. “Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as France, America, Russia and Israel?”

During the interview with Morgan, Netanyahu also discussed the revolution in Egypt which led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, as well as the current situation in Libya. The full interview airs Thursday at 9:00pm Eastern Time on CNN.